Printing surface charge as a new paradigm to program droplet transport.
Directed, long-range and self-propelled transport of droplets on solid surfaces, especially on water repellent surfaces, is crucial for many applications from water harvesting to bio-analytical devices. One appealing strategy to achieve the preferential transport is to passively control the surface wetting gradients, topological or chemical, to break the asymmetric contact line and overcome the resistance force. Despite extensive progress, the directional droplet transport is limited to small transport velocity and short transport distance due to the fundamental trade-off: rapid transport of droplet demands a large wetting gradient, whereas long-range transport necessitates a relatively small wetting gradient. Here, we report a radically new strategy that resolves the bottleneck through the creation of an unexplored gradient in surface charge density (SCD). By leveraging on a facile droplet printing on superamphiphobic surfaces as well as the fundamental understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the creation of the preferential SCD, we demonstrate the self-propulsion of droplets with a record-high velocity over an ultra-long distance without the need for additional energy input. Such a Leidenfrost-like droplet transport, manifested at ambient condition, is also genetic, which can occur on a variety of substrates such as flexible and vertically placed surfaces. Moreover, distinct from conventional physical and chemical gradients, the new dimension of gradient in SCD can be programmed in a rewritable fashion. We envision that our work enriches and extends our capability in the manipulation of droplet transport and would find numerous potential applications otherwise impossible.
Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1901.02612
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